Ellis’ Encounters: Breaking into the NASCAR Rankings is Just as Tough as It Looks

Editor’s note: 

Ryan Ellis will be doing a driver diary for Speedway Digest on a monthly basis. He currently races the No. 1 Chevrolet for MAKE Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

As the second part of this series, the 25-year-old breaks down what it is like to break into the world of NASCAR, and just how perfect a driver has to be in everything they have to do. Take a look at his perspective of what life is like when the odds are against an up and coming driver.


“Not going to lie, I struggled a bit on the topic of this blog. In fact, as I’m typing this right now, I still don’t know where it’s going to go. I had a blog written on why certain drivers take certain opportunities and how those opportunities come about. But I’ve learned a lesson on shutting my mouth sometimes in this industry, and I’m going to do my best to do that.

That blog would probably be very interesting to everyone and would make everyone understand why certain drivers are where they are. For some reason, every fan wants to know the inside of the industry, but when I talk about it, there are always 10 percent of the people who think I am complaining. I’m not, I promise.

The industry is the way it is, and it’s up to us drivers to adapt. In fact, the business side of this sport interests me very much, and that’s why I like sharing it so much. Maybe one day, I’ll publish that, and it’s not even condescending to anyone, but I don’t want anyone to take it the wrong way. If I’ve learned anything about being a “public figure,” it’s that, if there is an opportunity to take something wrong, somebody will find it. I digress.


Social media. I think the best way to put it is:

  • It can boost your career 5 percent -10 percent, but it can kill your career 100 percent.
  • You can send 500,000 tweets that help your career. One bad tweet misconceived can cost you your career.

There is a high risk, with a low reward. But it is a necessity as an up-and-coming driver? Absolutely.

I just finished watching Tony Stewart’s periscope. I only caught the last part. For as scary as Twitter is for a driver, Periscope should scare influential figures a million times more. Not that many people say borderline things, but you have to be on guard every minute of every day. It’s not uncommon for people to just walk up Periscoping without any notice. I guess the lesson is … always pretend you’re on camera.

I love social media. If you don’t know that, you obviously don’t follow me on Twitter. The cool thing about Twitter is you can communicate with anyone and everyone. I’ve met a ton of cool celebrities through Twitter, and I don’t know if that was ever possible before it came about. I guess that’s about all I have to say on that.

Editor’s note: Ellis has over 16,000 followers on Twitter, and over 1,700 likes on Facebook.


This is a question I get quite a lot. What advice do you have for other drivers? I can only speak for the reasons that I made it to this level. Everyone has a different story, but these are the things I have learned:

  • If you’re not doing something to better your career every day, you’re doing it wrong. It doesn’t matter if you send one text message inquiring about a sponsor or 15 proposals to potential sponsors. You should do at least one thing every day to further yourself.
  • Leave your house in real life or virtually. Go to your local go-kart track. Go on Twitter and communicate with fans or drivers you look up to. The more people that know your name and respect you, the more likely you’ll come across someone who can help your career.
  • This goes with the last point, but put yourself out there every single way. I cannot reiterate this enough, put yourself out there in any way possible. I’ve met people coaching at local go-kart tracks, at charity functions or being friends of friends. The bigger your network is, the more likely you’ll have success. If you’re not personally wealthy, this is your biggest asset – networking.
  • Be thankful for every opportunity you get. Shake hands with every single person who helps you. Make sure people know you are thankful. People like helping people who appreciate their opportunities. Plus, it’s the right thing to do no matter what field you are in.
  • Study hard. No, my parents or your parents aren’t telling me to say this. Put school first. I’m one of the few guys in NASCAR that went to college that I know of. The sport has changed. Understand the business side of the sport and not only will you be a bigger asset to yourself, but you’ll be a bigger asset to teams who need help finding sponsorship and the sponsors themselves. If racing doesn’t work out, you’ll have an education and can work within the industry doing a million other fun jobs.
  • Help yourself.

Chris Rock once said, “I’d always end up broken down on the highway. When I stood there trying to flag someone down, nobody stopped. But when I pushed my own car, other drivers would get out and push with me. If you want help, help yourself—people like to see that.”

If you’re not putting in hard work, how can you expect someone else to help you?

Whatever you do, do well, and may success attend your efforts.

Don’t do anything without your full effort in this industry. Commit. Show how much it means to you. Make it happen.

  • Have fun. Smile. A lot of people within this industry could be making more money doing something else. We love what we do. If people aren’t having fun working with you or if they don’t like you, they won’t work with you. Have fun, be easy to work with. If people like you, you’ll make it one way or another.”
Joseph Wolkin